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Arrandale And Clarkdale

Intel Developer Forum, Day Three: All About Power
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On the PC front, Intel showed its upcoming 32nm dual-core CPUs running real-world applications. The company noted that the CPUs are on target to be delivered by the end of Q4. Performance of Clarkdale looked to be faster than the fastest Core 2 Duo--about 1.5x 3DMark Vantage performance (when comparing Clarkdale integrated graphics to G45 integrated graphics on the Core 2 Duo).

What’s interesting about Arrandale and Clarkdale is that they’ll have the integrated graphics on the CPU package. The CPU package will have two chips, the CPU and the Intel graphics core. The CPU will be built on the new 32nm process, while the graphics core is 45nm. Even more interesting, the dual-channel memory and PCI Express controllers are integrated onto the graphics core, not the CPU core, unlike the original Nehalem-based Core i5 and Core i7s.

As with earlier Nehalems, Turbo Boost is a part of the picture, allowing the CPUs to throttle up to impressive performance levels on lightly-threaded applications. Turbo Boost has been extended to the graphics core, too, allowing the GPU clock frequencies to crank up when more graphics horsepower is needed, as long as the overall thermal envelope of the whole CPU package remains within operational parameters.

The GPU itself has been improved by increasing clock frequencies and adding more shader units. Performance of just the graphics unit is estimated to be double the current Intel G45. We saw the Resident Evil benchmark running on Arrandale (the mobile version) at around 18-20 fps at 1280x720. So, while it won’t kill discrete graphics, the new graphics core should "suck less" than previous Intel IGPs in 3D environments.

What Intel is really aiming its integrated graphics core towards is HD video. It now supports dual-stream HD decode, so now can handle Blu-ray picture-in-picture functionality. Intel has also been working to improve the user interface of the graphics control panel. What we saw looked much improved over the existing Intel control panels, particularly if you’re a home theater video enthusiast. Videophiles now have more control over key parameters than they did previously.

Since Arrandale and Clarkdale now move the memory controller onto the CPU package (and are DDR3-exclusive), systems built on those CPUs should see substantial gains in memory bandwidth--up to 1.7x versus systems with DDR2-800 memory. Toss in Hyper-Threading support, which allows for four simultaneous threads on the two cores, and the performance will rival Core 2 Quads in the same target price. Intel didn’t divulge pricing, but compared Clarkdale to the Core 2 Quad Q9400, so it’s safe to say pricing will be under $200.

Despite the presence of integrated graphics on the CPU package, you can drop in a discrete graphics card into a Clarkdale system, which should make this a great CPU for building a budget gaming rig. Toss in enhancements from Windows 7 to make more effective use of Hyper-Threaded CPUs and you have a recipe for fairly high performance in even lower-cost machines than today's Core i5 is able to provide.

Looking Forward

As we noted on day one, Intel’s emphasis at this year’s IDF was strongly focused on small things: new mobile CPUs (Moorestown), handheld devices, and very thin laptops and netbook computers. But there was still a lot of meat for PC enthusiasts. While we didn’t get hands-on, Intel was very public about the 32nm Gulftown six-core CPU arriving as an upgrade sometime next year for owners of existing LGA 1366 systems. Arrandale looks to be a great addition to Intel’s mobile lineup. The company also announced Clarksfield, the quad-core, 45nm laptop version of Nehalem.

Clarkdale on the desktop looks to be one of the best budget CPUs we’ve seen in a long time. While Intel only spoke of the 3.3 GHz version, we’ll likely see lower-clocked versions. Overclocking headroom is unknown at this point, but given the massive Turbo Boost increases we saw, Clarkdale is likely to be overclocking-friendly. But with Turbo Boost dynamically delivering additional performance, you may not need to overclock.

If anything disappointed us at this year’s IDF, it was the anemic showing of Larrabee. Given the downright pathetic nature of the demo Intel was showing, Larrabee looks to be no threat to Nvidia or AMD’s ATI division for some time to come, at least in terms of gaming.

We’re anticipating testing the new Intel processors, both mobile and desktop, as they arrive. And what performance enthusiast wouldn’t look forward to six cores under the hood?

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  • 0 Hide
    burnley14 , September 25, 2009 2:39 PM
    It sounds like Toshiba is developing a SSD that plugs directly into a SATA port, which sounds ideal as long as it's bootable, even if the storage is limited. Now just work on making it cheaper . . .
  • 0 Hide
    ceteras , September 25, 2009 3:40 PM
    burnley14It sounds like Toshiba is developing a SSD that plugs directly into a SATA port, which sounds ideal as long as it's bootable, even if the storage is limited. Now just work on making it cheaper . . .

    What do you mean by "as long as it's bootable". How on Earth do you imagine they could make it non-bootable?

    A SSD that plugs directly into a SATA port would be a standard SATA device, only smaller, and using the right connector to fit the one on the mainboard. Of course it needs another one for power.

    Perhaps it will look like this one, only it should be even smaller and a lot faster.

  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 25, 2009 4:16 PM
    To me, Clarkdale is definitely the most interesting of the new Intel products. With built-in HD acceleration and high-definition audio bitstreaming (according to Anandtech), it looks like this is going to be THE chip for HTPC applications. At least it will be if they can ensure that 24p output works smoothly (it didn't with the G45, at least at first - not sure if that was ever fixed), and ensure that there are no other major showstoppers.

    Intel is usually pretty good about Linux driver support, so I really hope that their Linux drivers will support the TrueHD/DTS-MA bitstreaming functions. It would be great if XBMC for Linux could bitstream these formats from MKV files. This would ensure zero quality loss from Blu-Ray backups.
  • 0 Hide
    alexie , September 25, 2009 7:06 PM
    paying $200 to CPU+GPU and also paying 50-70$ or more to mainboard for a PC with clarkdale and also paying another $100 or more for extra GPU???
    I'd rather go core i5 :) 
    I think Intel needs to make something more to clarkdale for us to buy it.
    Do you?
  • 0 Hide
    WINTERLORD , September 25, 2009 10:33 PM
    from the way it was worded about intel aqnd gulftown 6core processor well with all the intigration of stuff ect. i sure hopoe gulftown aint a disappiontment. also i was under the impression that the 1366 would support an 8core 16 process through hyper thread. hope all this stuff holds true in the long run would sure like to see it stay on the 1366 socket awhile
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 26, 2009 2:53 AM
    I hope the integrated GPU can work together with the discrete GPU to add some value. At least be able to switch between them without going to the BIOS.
  • 0 Hide
    anamaniac , September 26, 2009 11:01 AM
    Very impressive.
    For some, the integrated GPU works perfectly fine. Unless gaming/CAD/photoshop etc., you have no use for anything else.
    I know this would work fine for most. Starcraft/Warcraft3/WoW (guess this would be a large market share they would want to target)/CS:S etc. would all run perfectly fine on it. Most people can use a solo core and never even notice.
    Honestly, my old integrated graphics/1.6Hz celeron (not a atom) works just fine (well, before it burned out recently). My i7 and descrete graphics is just for hardcire gaming AND bragging rights.

    I imagine this will be far under $200 (Intel claimed its integrated graphics cost OEMs about $7 a peice, and being a dual core, it's gonna be cheap likely). Lets assume $150 CPU, $100 MOBO, $50 RAM, $50 HDD, $20 DVD, $30 case, $40 PSU, $5 mouse, $15 keyboard, $20 speakers, $100 1024p monitor and it all racks to $580 for a complete system that would still kick ass.

    It's a dual core, it's not aimed for gamers, so deal with it. =D